Khaled al-Balshy, an Egyptian journalist, was named the winner of the ‘Individual Activist’ category of the 2017 Civicus Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovations Award, the MadaMasr news portal reports. He is the chief editor of the privately owned Al-Bedaiah news portal, a former board member of the country’s Committee to Protect Journalists group and a leading member of Egypt’s journalist union. On the awards website, Al-Balshy is described as a human rights defender who braves the odds to stand for media rights despite a repressive environment for media practitioners. He has boldly and relentlessly pursued the cause of free speech, despite facing physical and online harassment, as well as harassment by the courts, in a nation where media freedom is under constant attack. In fact, Al-Balshy, along with other members of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate, was handed a year-long suspended sentence on charges of ‘harboring fugitives’.

Al-Balshy has succeeded in having several journalists released from detention.

Al-Balshy established the Front to Defend Journalists and Freedoms, which has succeeded in having several journalists released from detention. “He has also sought every available platform to shine a light on violations by the government and share these with the world, and has actively mentored younger journalists to defend their own rights and the rights of others,” the organisers added.

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Other leading lights
The other winners selected from the approximately 300 nominations that were submitted from across the globe were: Guyana’s Jubilante Cutting, who trains and creates employment for young people in media and animation, winning the Youth Activist award; Mentally Aware, a Nigerian non-profit organisation focusing on mental health issues, winning the Civil Society Organisation award; and the Berlin-based Guerrilla Foundation, an organisation that funds activism, winning the Brave Philanthropy award.

Nelson Mandela statue in the Union Buildings grounds photo credit Wikipedia

All the winners received their awards at a ceremony on 7 December 2017 in Suva, Fiji, as part of International Civil Society Week. “For the first time this year, the Awards were run in collaboration with The Elders – a group of independent global leaders, founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007 – and, specifically, their #WalkTogether campaign,” the awards website added.

The Innovations Awards recognises individuals and organisations for their excellence, innovation and bravery in creating positive social change.

The Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovations Awards recognises individuals and organisations for their excellence, innovation and bravery in creating positive social change. The awards are part of the global SPEAK! campaign, which seeks to give a voice to everyone, everywhere.